The schizophrenia risk of the immigrants is twice as high as those of Israeli-born Ethiopian Jews.
A memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia, June 5, 2016. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Immigrants of Ethiopian origin have a 2.4-fold risk of developing type-2 diabetes and a 1.5 higher risk of contracting schizophrenia than other Israelis, according to a recent discussion in the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee.
Dr. Yonatan Reuven, who conducts research on Ethiopian Jewish health, said that due to lifestyle and nutrition changes, the diabetes risk is significantly higher even than Jews of Ethiopian origin who were born in Israel. The condition is often accompanied by hypertension, obesity and tooth decay.
The schizophrenia risk of the immigrants is twice as high as those of Israeli-born Ethiopian Jews. Although no explanation for this was given, 28% of the immigrants suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the men were significantly more likely to commit suicide.
A month ago, changes in regulations instituted by the Health Ministry went into effect, allowing some Ethiopian immigrants, homosexuals and elderly people to donate blood. The change resulted from new Israeli and foreign epidemiological data and the improvement in medical technologies and risk assessment.
For many years, Jews of Ethiopian heritage who were born in Israel have been able to donate blood without limitation.
However, those who were born in Ethiopia or if they spent over a year, since 1977, in a country where HIV was endemic, had been banned. It was also forbidden for people of any origin over the age of 65 to give a first blood donation.
Thanks to the new changes, restrictions on Ethiopian immigrants who were born there were dropped, except those who spent more than a year in an HIV-endemic country and less than a year has passed since they arrived in Israel.
The questionnaire – filled out by all would-be donors about possible behaviors that could increase the risk of HIV infection such as homosexuality or intravenous drug use – has been updated and is identical to those adopted by the US Food and Drug Administration and health authorities in Europe. The tests used here for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus are significantly more sensitive than the old ones, thus the “window” of infection is being narrowed to a few days between infection by a carrier and testing for these viruses.
YALURONIC ACID IN CREAM, NOT INJECTION
A Bar-Ilan University research team has developed a unique technology that produces small molecules of anti-aging hyaluronic acid polymers that can be applied as a cream instead of injections. The team, headed by Prof. Rachel Lubart and Prof. Aharon Gedanken from the chemistry and physics departments and BIU’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, have been involved in the past few years in the development of a technology for micronization and characterization of hyaluronic acid.
The skin, which plays an important role in protecting the body’s organs, is impenetrable.
Finding means to penetrate the skin barrier has challenged the medical field for years. Huge efforts have been made in developing ways to introduce hyaluronic acid into the skin, as it cannot penetrate it naturally.
Now, based on this development, para-medical cosmetics pioneer Hava Zingboim has produced the first formula that allows the hyaluronic acid to penetrate into the deeper skin layers by means of cream application and without injection.
A key property of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally present in the body, is its ability to adsorb large quantities of water. Hyaluronic acid is also an effective antioxidant, which means it can trap the free radicals formed in the skin during inflammatory processes or as a result of exposure to UV rays. These properties make it an important anti-aging agent.
The look of young skin can be measured by the amount of hyaluronic acid between the cells. As people age, the body gradually loses its ability to produce hyaluronic acid.
The decreasing availability of hyaluronic acid directly results in sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines.
CAN OMEGA-3 HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Neuroimaging shows increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning for people with higher omega-3 levels.
According to a new study headed by Dr. Daniel Amen of Costa Mesa, California, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, blood flow in specific areas of the brain rises in patients with high omega-3 levels. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is expected to triple in the coming decades, and no cure has been found.
Recently, interest in dietary approaches for prevention of cognitive decline has increased. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acids have shown anti-amyloid, anti-tau and anti-inflammatory actions in the brains of animals.
“This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging,” commented biology Prof. George Perry of the University of Texas at San Antonio and editor-in-chief of the journal.
When single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is used to measure blood perfusion in the brain, images acquired from subjects performing various cognitive tasks show higher blood flow in specific brain regions. When these images were compared to the Omega-3 Index – a measure of the blood concentration of two omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – investigators found a statistically significant correlation between higher blood flow and higher Omega-3 Index.
Co-author Dr. William Harris of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine said, “Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the ‘fish oil’ fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored. This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function.”
Family members embrace at Ben Gurion Airport as 72 new immigrants from Ethiopia arrive on June 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Surrounded by Israeli flags and dozens of balloons, more than 200 families and supporters gathered at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday night to welcome 72 new Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, the first group to immigrate since the government “resumed” Ethiopian immigration last October.
When the new immigrants emerged into the airport’s arrival hall, a huge cheer went through the crowd, which rushed forward to embrace family members they hadn’t seen in over a decade. Youth group members formed a welcoming line, chanting, “We won’t be afraid, even if the road is long.”
“We’re not angry but we were worried, we were very worried,” said Adisu Berhanu, who was waiting for his 13-year-old niece, whom he had last seen before he moved to Israel when she was a year old. “But here, today, the worries are behind us. There’s always hope, we hope everyone will be able to make aliyah.”
In August 2016, a year after the government first announced it would bring those still awaiting immigration, the Finance Ministry agreed to allocate money to allow 1,300 Ethiopians to come, the first step of a five-year program to bring 6,000 new immigrants at a rate of approximately 100 per month.
Although a celebratory flight landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in October with 63 Ethiopians who had already received their approval to immigrate, this was the first plane to arrive since then. The process for immigration approval has been plagued by accusations of racism and inefficiency against the Interior Ministry.
A crowd of more than 200 people waited for the new Ethiopian immigrants on June 6, 2017 at Ben Gurion Airport. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Family members said they hoped Tuesday’s flight would signify a turning point. There are two additional flights planned for June, including one next week with almost 100 people, according to International Christian Embassy Jerusalem spokesman David Parsons. ICEJ is sponsoring the first year of flights for the Ethiopian immigrants.
“They were projecting 1,300 in the first year, but there was a six-month delay, so they need to catch up a little,” said Parsons. “But today you can really feel the joy and excitement of families reuniting after a long time of separation.”
Parsons said that African Christians have been especially passionate about donating to ICEJ to pay for the flights of Ethiopian Jews, including a group of Tanzanian Christians who paid for the flights of an entire family of eight people.
Other people were less optimistic, including many of the activists who are part of the Struggle for Ethiopian Jewry. “The Israeli public is so apathetic,” said Moges Siyum, one activist. “How is it that just us alone are fighting to bring these Jews home? They are a symbol of all of the Jewish people.”
More than 50 members of youth groups waited with homemade signs and small flags, including Bnei Akiva and Fighters for Hope, an organization that runs one-week service trips to Ethiopia for post-army and post-national service young adults.
Family members greet new arrivals from Ethiopia at Ben Gurion Airport on June 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
“Coming here tonight is the least we can do to help them get off on the right foot,” said Tal Hadad, 18. “I wish [Israelis] would care a little bit more about this issue and accept people.”
Or Getahun from Kiryat Malachi was waiting with his grandfather for the daughter of his niece, whom he hadn’t seen in 15 years. His niece arrived on the October flight and has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of her daughter. His grandfather had never met his great-grandchildren. “It’s a sad story but ended with happiness,” said Getahun. “In my family there were so many reactions, some were angry, some were not, but at least it ended happily so the mom and daughter can meet.”
Many family members were separated for more than a decade before the reunion at Ben Gurion Airport on June 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The Ethiopian Jews, who primarily relocated from Ethiopia to Israel through Israeli rescue missions in the 1980s, form a unique minority of today’s Israeli population. Back In Ethiopia, they were known as Falasha, meaning “strangers”, and have referred to themselves as Beta Israel, or “the house of Israel”. Their settlements were scattered in the northwestern area of Ethiopia and the border zone with the Sudan.
The approach and methodology of the conventional theory on the origins of the Ethiopian Jewry, as proposed by James Quirin, rejects the existence of an ancestral connection between the contemporary Ethiopian Jewish community and the ancient Israelite-Jews. Proponents of this theory trace the origins of the group to what they perceive as a local Ethiopian separatist movement within Christianity in the 14th-to-16th century.
The influence of this theory with regards to how the media continues to define the origins of the Ethiopian Jewry is overwhelming. A Newsweek article reports: “Historians still debate the precise origins of Ethiopia’s Jewish community but agree that it developed largely in isolation until the 20th century.” The statement reiterates the idea embedded in the traditional theory that the group has developed locally, “in isolation,” without an ancient Israelite connection. Although a majority of historians have subscribed to this hypothesis, not all scholars agree on its premises as the article’s authors insinuate. Scholars, such as David Kessler in his work The Falashas, argue that there is no persuasive reason to assume that the Ethiopian Jews descend from Christian separatists since their faith, among many other reasons, is an authentic form of Judaism that predates Christianity.
In my articles (here, here, and here), I have argued that historical sources and evidence overwhelmingly suggest that the group directly descends from ancient Israelite-Jewish origins. As I demonstrate, sources and evidence dating between the 1st to 4th centuries period and contemporary times point to the historical continuity of the Ethiopian Jews as a group. I stress that the group’s religious structure is fundamentally Jewish and that it is unreasonable to assume that it has developed locally, in what is today Ethiopia, without authentic Israelite contributions involving culture, religion, and genetics.
I also base my argument on genetic research from Genetic Literacy Project founder Jon Entine’s book Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People, which suggests that the group was formed when fragmented Jewish communities in the region amalgamated in the mid-first millennium. (Furthermore, I stress that the Ethiopian Jews share indisputable historical, geographical and probably genealogical connections with Northern Sudan that are yet to be examined by scholars in depth.)
A genetic study that is rarely if ever mentioned in Ethiopian Jewish research was published by the highly regarded American Journal of Human Genetics. As the BBC reports, the study suggests that “Ethiopians mixed with Egyptian, Israeli or Syrian populations about 3,000 years ago.” Professor Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, told the BBC: “By analyzing the genetics of Ethiopia and several other regions we can see that there was gene flow into Ethiopia, probably from the Levant, around 3,000 years ago, and this fits perfectly with the story of the Queen of Sheba.” Note that the study does not contradict the 2007 work by Entine or other historical evidence. The results suggest that Israelites-Jews entered the region 3,000 years ago, but they were not necessarily consolidated as a group until about 1,500 years ago. Also, note the study does not necessarily confirm the biblical story of affair between Queen Sheba of ancient Ethiopia and king Solomon of ancient Israel.
Worth mentioning is the research of the Iraqi Semitic languages specialist Jaafar Hadi Hassan in 2015. Hassan is widely considered one of the most renowned scholars in Iraq and the Arab world. In his research, he criticizes historians for assuming that the Scottish explorer James Bruce was the first to “discover” the existence of the Ethiopian Jewry in the second half of the 18th century. Hassan explains that the Arabs were closely acquainted with the Ethiopian Jews long before Bruce entered the picture.
One of the sources Hassan cites is the work of the 16th century Arab historian Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Jizani. Writing in the first half of the 16th century, Shihab al-Din explains—as I translated from Arabic: “The Semien country belonged to the Jews of Abyssinia [in what is today Ethiopia] and their name in their language is Falasha [a local name for the Ethiopian Jews]” The Arab historian then goes on to describe interactions between the Ethiopian Jews and the Muslim leader Imam al-Ghazi.
More important is the 17th century Arab historian Al-Himi al-Hassan bin Ahmad. He states—as I also translated from Arabic:
” After completing seven phases, we contacted the country of the Falasha; the first of which is a great valley under a towering mountain of supreme grandiose and extreme height. The name of the valley is ‘Aghnah’ and the name of the mountain is ‘Semien’. “
“This tribe they call Falasha is a large tribe, one of the greatest tribes in Abyssinia. Their faith is Judaism and they abide by the law of the Torah ( . . . ) They were not submissive to the king who invaded, fought, and assaulted them in all parts of their country so that he has surrounded them by the Christian country. He eventually defeated them and forced them out of their fortresses ( . . . ) Most of them converted to Christianity except for a small minority.”
Hence, it is certainly problematic from a scholarly standpoint when a BBC contributor writes, “The main challenge in tracing the origins of a Jewish presence in Ethiopia is the lack of reliable accounts”. We can conclude that since the influence of the traditional theory on the media and the scholarly scheme of research on the Ethiopian Jews is dominating, there is a need for a new unbiased approach to investigate the history and origins of the group.
Ibrahim M. Omer is a 3D Animation specialist with interest in the reconstruction of ancient historical settings. He has worked as an academic in the social science areas of linguistics, culture, and history. He is the author of the academic website AncientSudan.org.
Ethiopian Judaism nearly identical to that practiced during Second Temple Period
Researcher Dr. Yossi Ziv has researched Ethiopian Judaism and found an amazing discovery: Ethiopian Jews' customs and traditions extremely similar to those described in Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple Era texts.
Yael Freidson|Published: 10.12.16 , 23:35
Dr. Yossi Ziv has been researching the religious rituals of the Ethiopian Jewish population still in Ethiopia and discovered that they maintained the same customs and traditions as the Jews of the Second Temple period for the past two thousand years.
"It’s knowledge which hasn't been written anywhere, and has been preserved in their traditions," the researcher said.
"They have been curating ancient customs that have disappeared from the world. They provide examples of how the leaders of the nation of Israel would have behaved during the time of the Second Temple."
Israeli-Ethiopian elders performing the Sigid ritual in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
The professor released his findings at a seminar which was held at the Kfar Etzion Field School right before the Jewish-Ethiopian holiday of Sigid.
Ziv said that many Jewish-Ethiopian customs go against modern Jewish practice, but perfectly align with customs and rituals described on scrolls found in the Qumran caves and in books dating back to the Second Temple Period. The Qumran Caves are where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, which include the third oldest Hebrew Bible ever found.
Some of these Second Temple Era customs include not lighting Shabbat candles, adhering to an ancient custom prohibiting the use of fire lit even before Shabbat started. Along with this, no flame is to be passed from one vessel to another on Shabbat, even if it was lit before Shabbat came in.
"They don't even adhere to the famous rule which says that 'Shabbat rules may be disregarded for the purpose of saving a life,'" Ziv said. "For the Ethiopian Jews, the sanctity of Shabbat must be preserved, even at the cost of human life."
Evidence of this stringent observance of Shabbat was also seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Ethiopian women at the Sigid festival (Photo: Reuters)
Ziv added that there were different sects of Jews living during the time of the Second Temple—the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots—who all lived according to different beliefs and rituals. Jewish rituals and customs today mostly take after the Pharisee tradition.
Another example in the differences between mainstream Judaism and Ethiopian Judaism relates to sex during Shabbat. According to modern Jewish tradition, marital relations are not only permitted, but encouraged on the day of rest. Meanwhile, Ethiopian tradition holds that all sex is forbidden on Shabbat so as not to sully the body. Examples of this Ethiopian tradition have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The discrepancies between the more "modern" Jewish law and the law of the Ethiopian Jewish elders—known as the Kessim—can be seen in different areas of Jewish law.
According to mainstream Jewish custom, people in mourning refrain from cutting their hair or shaving their beards for a specified period of time, whereas Ethiopian custom is for mourners to cut their hair short and shave their beards—another tradition Ziv saw written in texts from the Second Temple Era.
Ethiopian Jewish women in Jerusalem at the Sigid ritual (Photo: Reuters)
"After the Prophet Job underwent his bad tidings, it is written that he cut his hair. It was also written in some of the writings of Isaiah and Ezekiel that the Jews would cut their hair short during periods of mourning," Ziv said.
Another prominent Ethiopian Jewish tradition is strict observance of purity laws. For instance, when a woman is menstruating in Ethiopian Jewish society, she is sent to live in a specified tent outside of the village until she becomes "pure" once again, as is prescribed to be done in the Temple Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Kessim Israeli-Ethiopian leaders (Photo: Reuters)
This ritual purity is another reason why ritual circumcision is not carried out in Ethiopian Jewish synagogues. Therefore, the circumcisions are carried out next to the tent of the menstruating women, and often done by the women. It is only after the first 40 days after a boy is born that an Ethiopian mother can return to the village. If a girl is born, then the mother must wait 80 days. The baby naming would then occur in the village.
'They were a part of us, but were then cut off'
The differences between the rituals and customs of mainstream Judaism and Ethiopian Judaism undermined the authority of the traditional Ethiopian Jewish leaders after they made aliyah to Israel, and even undermined the Ethiopians' claims that they are indeed Jews.
However, Ziv says that the customs and traditions of the Ethiopian Jews and their strong resemblance to Jewish traditions during the Second Temple Period only serve to strengthen their connection to Judaism as a whole.
"I'm convinced that this community was a part of the nation of Israel during ancient times, but they were cut off. We don't know when or why, but it occurred before the Pharisic tradition became the mainstream Jewish tradition," Dr. Ziv said."The Jews of Ethiopia lived in exile and in complete isolation from the rest of the nation of Israel. However, they continued to keep the traditions of our forefathers up until this very day."